13TH BOMBARDMENT SQUADRON
REACTIVATED ON 23 SEPTEMBER 2005

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visits since 10 October 2005

 

On Sept. 23, 2005 the 13th Bomb. Sq. (Grim Reapers) and their mascot "Oscar" were, once again, reactivated. Since their inception in 1917 they have been deactivated and reactivated (according to the needs of the nation) so many times, old "Oscar" has got to feel a little like a yoyo.

As it turned out it was a double ceremony. The 325th Expeditionary Bomb. Sq. (Fames Favored Few) with roots in WW II was deactivated. Then the personnel became members of the reactivated 13th Bomb Sq. The 13th Sq. is, possibly, the oldest unit in the Air Force, and has the most illustrious history of any unit. I believe it was for this reason that the Air Force decided to reactivate it, and let it live on.

It was activated in 1917 as the 104th Aero Sq. and served in WW I. In 1919 it became a part of the First Surveillance Gp. In 1921 it was redesignated the 13th Bomb. Sq. In June, 1924 the 13th was deactivated. In Nov. 1929 it was reactivated and joined the Third Attack Gp. at Ft. Crockett. In 1939 the Group was moved to Barksdale Field in Louisiana, and in 1940 moved to Savannah Army Air Base, Savannah, Ga.

Jan. 31, 1942 the Group boarded the U.S.S. Ancon and was deployed to Australia. On Apr. 5, 1942 (Easter Sunday) the 13th Sq. flew their first mission of the war. The target was Gasmata on the Island of New Britain, and the aircraft were B-25s - which Col. John Davies had begged, borrowed or stolen from the Dutch. That was the start of 41 months of continuous combat duty in WW II.

They operated out of bases at Charters Towers, Q'land, Aust.; Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea; Doba Dura, Papua New Guninea; Nadzab, Papua New Guinea; Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea; Leyte Island, P.I.; Mindoro Is., P.I. and Okinawa. They never flew a mission from Leyte. The Group got their in Nov., 1944, the rainy season on the East side of the archipelago. They sat on the beach for six weeks and were moved to Mindoro on the West side of the archipelago. They ended the war on Okinawa.

In 1945 they were moved to Atsugi, Japan as part of the occupation forces. With the advent of the Korean Conflict they were moved to Kunsan, Korea. It was soon discovered their A-26s were no match for the Migs. The planes were painted black and used for night interdiction missions. The tip of the tail was painted with the Sq. color, the 13ths being red. After the Korean War they also participated in the Viet Nam war, having moved to Bien Hoa Air Base in Viet Nam.

In his 88 year life old "Oscar" has flown in many different Aircraft, starting with the French Spad in WW I. In WW II he flew in B-25s, A-20s and A-26s. In Korea it was the A-26 and in Viet Nam he entered the Jet age in the B-57. He will now be flying the latest thing in aviation technology - the B-2 Stealth Bomber."

Jack Heyn
former member 13th Bomb Squadron, 3rd Bomb Group

 

13threactivation01.jpg (49325 bytes) Out side the hangar where the ceremony took place sat three aircraft. The B-1 bomber which the 13th was flying before its latest deactivation. A WW II B-25, pictured. The B-1 and B-2 are monsters, and Jack Heyn had a lot of trouble getting a decent photo of them.
13threactivation02.jpg (67955 bytes) The Sq. stands at-ease waiting for the ceremony to start.
13threactivation09.jpg (46015 bytes) Dignitaries arriving:-

Front - Col. Robert Wheeler, Commander 509th Operations Group.
Second - Lt. Col. Tom Bussierel, Commander, 13th Bomb. Sq.
Third - Col. C. Q. Brown Jr., Commandant U.S. Air Force Weapons School
Fourth - Lt. Col. Glen Van Herk Commander 325th Weapons Sq.

13threactivation03.jpg (48861 bytes) The colour guard moves in.
13threactivation04.jpg (52392 bytes) The proceedings begin.
13threactivation05.jpg (21634 bytes) Main entrance to Whiteman Air Force Base at Knob Noster, Mo. 
13threactivation06.jpg (55002 bytes) Just inside the main gate sits a WW II B-29. Not just any B-29, this one is special.  The Enola Gay dropped the first Atom Bomb in the annals of warfare.  This B-29 photographed it.  The mushroom cloud you  have viewed so many times in these past 60 was photographed from this aircraft.
13threactivation07.jpg (23329 bytes) A little further inside you will see this introduction the world of Stealth technology.  A close up of the aircraft.
13threactivation08.jpg (70422 bytes) A long shot of the area.
13threactivation10.jpg (58665 bytes) Dignitaries being introduced on the podium
13threactivation11.jpg (23339 bytes) 13th Sq. guidon being presented to Lt. Col. Bussiere. 
13threactivation12.jpg (72737 bytes) Squadron has removed the 325th patches from their uniforms and attached the Grim Reaper's "Oscar"
13threactivation13.jpg (77570 bytes) Captain admiring his new "Oscar" patch, having removed the 325th patch and replaced it with "Oscar".
13threactivation14.jpg (76828 bytes) There were a good number of Korean War 13th Sq. Veterans in attendance.  They are identified by their red shirts and hats.

 

13threactivation15.jpg (184606 bytes) There was but one WW II Veteran of the Sq. in attendance. Jack Heyn, my Jonnie and our Grandson, Dustan.  We had hoped that Col. (AF Ret.) Dick Walker would be there.  He was Sq. Comm. in '44 and I believe part of '45.  Dick has an enviable combat record and survived those costly early months of the war in '42.  He could have told the young pilots what it was like in combat when you could see the whites of they eyes of the enemy trying to shoot you down. Unfortunately he had a prior commitment he couldn't get out of. 
13threactivation16.jpg (47600 bytes) This one is the new home of "Oscar",  The landing Gear cover of the B-2 Stealth Bomber.  He shares space with the name of the aircraft (this one being "Spirit of Missouri", 13th B.S. and "Grim Reapers".
13threactivation17.jpg (41759 bytes) A B-2 Stealth Bomber.  It is a monster of an aircraft with a very low profile; which makes it extremely difficult to get a descent photo from ground level.  Old "Oscar" started his career 88 years ago flying in the French Spad.  Today he flies in the very latest in aviation technology. 
13threactivation21.jpg (45712 bytes) A B-2 Stealth Bomber.
13threactivation18.jpg (50352 bytes) That evening at the Red Shirt get together at the Club the 13th Sq. Korean Assn. presented the new Sq. Comm. with a poster.  It had pictures of every aircraft old "Oscar" had ever flown in, in his long illustrious career.
13threactivation19.jpg (60852 bytes) The poster
13threactivation20.jpg (29626 bytes) Also that evening two new pilots just out of B-2 school were welcomed into the Sq.  One was not there, this is a photo of the other being welcomed.
13threactivation22.jpg (55108 bytes) 'Chow time' at the evening get together at the club
13threactivation23.jpg (49235 bytes) Maj. Leland Bohannon, who was instrumental in getting  my invitation to attend the ceremonies.  He also gathered the pilots together for me to get the group shot coming up.  A very nice officer and gentleman; I think our Air Force is in good hands.
13threactivation24.jpg (106934 bytes) "Devil's Own Grim Reapers" flag featuring old "Oscar".
13threactivation25.jpg (110436 bytes) Group Photo of the 13th Sq. pilots behind old "Oscar". I will list them from left to right. Please note there are two young ladies in the group. In 60 years they have not only drastically changed the shape of the aircraft - but also the shape of the pilots.

Left to Right: Lt. Col. Tom "Bra" Busseire - Maj. Brian "Peco" Gallo - Capt. Ryan "Poacher" Bailey - Lt. Col. Paul "Nuke" Tibbets - Capt. Danny "Guiness" Stout - Maj. Alan "Gump" Sanders - Capt. Jan "Stretch" Jeffords - Capt. Jason "Potsie" Comminsky - Lt. Col. Jim "Opie" Dawkins - Capt. Nick Adcock - Capt. Jared "Evel" Kennish - Maj. Leland "Beau" Bohannon - Capt. Craig "Ruprecht" Mocker - Capt. Geoff "Zorro" Billingsley - Capt. Matt Calhoun - 2nd Lt. Megan "Cheeks" Liemburg-Archer - Capt. Tom Rezac - Capt. John "Fokker" Avery - No Name - Maj. Mike "2 Dogs" Means.

13threactivation28.jpg (263033 bytes) A named version of the above photograph sent to Jack Heyn by Major Bohannon
13threactivation26.jpg (99141 bytes) Bill Cowan "ORB" (Old Rotten Bill) - with friend Lt. Col. Gordon P Greaney - a Korean War Veteran of the "Grim Reapers".  Bill also served in WW II as a gunner on B-17s in the 8th Air Force, where he flew 34 missions,  but I do believe he found a home with the "Grim Reapers".

 

"ORB"

Jack Heyn had been told that Bill Cowan "ORB" (Old Rotten Bill) had been instrumental in getting the 13th Bomb Squadron reactivated in 2000 and again this year.  So Jack asked him about it. 

The following is the story - in Bill's own words:-

Did I have anything to do with the reactivation of the unit at Dyess????

You could say and really should say a big Amen and yes to that fact.......You see back in the tenure of General McPeak as USAF Chief of Staff he decreed that the Air Force should re-examine the historical records of the many old units who were no longer active. On finding any that should replace the vaunted 999th Mess Kit Repair Group they should be reactivated and brought back on line. Many were and well deserved I might add. However old "Oscar" was not deemed a desirable image to portray to the Ladies Garden Club of Podunk Hollar, USA!!!! Horrors!!!

The Devils Own Grim Reapers!!!! Now that would curdle their tea in no uncertain circumstances!!!

OK there occurred much wailing and gnashing of teeth by the membership of the 13th Bomb Squadron Association, Korea, whose vaunted membership touted several general officers and more colonels than you could count. With all that potential firepower you'd think the "Puzzel Palace" would be inundated with massive cries of shame and disgrace. Boy howdy look out below we're going to rain fire on you. Alas the silence was deafening to say the least. Guess they were all afraid of being recalled and sent to the Northern Climes.

OK now that sort of pissed this old retired Tech Sergeant off to say the least. On Veterans Day 1995 I wrote a three page letter to then USAF Chief of Staff General Fogleman, stating our case and requesting his intervention on our behalf. In a matter of days I received a reply and was informed the wheels were in motion and we would be apprised of the momentous decision as soon as possible. In August 1996 I was informed by the CS that we would be reactivated as a part of The Air Combat Command. At our association reunion in Las Vegas I had the great honor of informing the membership of that decision. In June 2000 we reactivated the squadron at Dyess. One of the squadron commanders went around the VIP tent at Big Country Day on base introducing me as "The Grandfather" of the new 13th!!!! 

Did I have a hand in the Whiteman decision??? Yes to a degree as we banded together and stirred the pot for what we got in the B-2.

Bill Cowan

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Jack Heyn for his assistance with this web page. All of the above photographs and text were supplied by my mate Jack Heyn.

 

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This page first produced 10 October 2005

This page last updated 11 October 2005